How Local Governments are Addressing Residents’ Concerns in the 2020 Election

Michaela Sokol

Michaela Sokol

A Pew Research Study conducted in August found that nearly half of American voters are approaching this year’s presidential election with uncertainty due to the combination of the pandemic and a fear of cyber attacks.

Generally, during election season there is a slew of misinformation and disinformation, but this year, the spread of false information has been especially severe, particularly around COVID-19. It’s therefore no surprise that our data shows an uptick in residents’ unease about various issues relating to the election and voting in practically all of the 160+ cities and counties we work with across the US. We crunched the data to identify top concerns amongst Americans this year, including: (1) conversations around early voting; (2) debates about requirements for mail-in or absentee ballots; (3) fear of fraud and claims that voting in-person is the only way to prevent voter fraud; and (4) confusion amongst voters regarding drop box usage and locations as well as irregularities at the polls.

With early voting underway in several states, we’ve already seen these top concerns stemming from resident discourse substantiated. In Texas, where early voting was opened on Oct 13, eager voters waited in line for hours due to varying issues. In one Texas County, the long lines were caused due to a poll worker testing positive for COVID-19, forcing the County to temporarily shut down three early voting locations. In other parts of the State, the long wait times were attributed to inexperienced poll workers, a common theme this year as COVID-19 created a need for more volunteers than ever before. 

Although the situation is not ideal, local governments are none-the-less rising to the occasion. We’ve highlighted some of the best work being done to address the concerns our data flagged. Here are a few of the counties and cities out there promoting voter education, encouraging voter participation through new avenues, and recruiting additional poll workers in the face of COVID-19 and voter trepidation:

Weber County, Utah

  • To help alleviate the spread of false information in their jurisdiction, Weber County leaders have been releasing informative social media graphics to directly address concerns about remote voting. 
  • In response to resident fears regarding early voting and COVID-19 friendly booths, the County has also been posting election updates regularly on their official Facebook page, as well as informational videos to help ease any mistrust. 

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Multnomah County, Oregon

  • Multnomah County is incredibly diverse where residents speak a number of languages. That’s why their local government leaders have put out informational cross-platform videos in a variety of languages.
  • Additionally, the County has also translated informational pages and press releases to ensure nothing gets lost in translation.

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Los Angeles County, California

  • In order to meet the voting needs of essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk (RR/CC) initiated the VSAP Mobile Voting Program which will be serving different locations every day of the Election Period.
  • As of October 5th, over 400 secure drop boxes were placed throughout the County to give voters a safe, accessible and contact free method to return their ballot during COVID-19.

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Jefferson County, Kentucky

  • Not only has Jefferson County expanded in-person voting on Election Day but they have also hired more poll workers to help sanitize and wipe areas, and ensure they have enough backup alternates available in case a poll worker contracts the virus during the voting period.
  • Despite being Kentucky’s most populous county, early voting, which began on October 13, went off without a hitch. This was in part thanks to the four early voting polling stations available to residents within the County compared to the one being offered throughout the rest of the State.

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Greensboro, North Carolina

  • To encourage voting come Election Day, the Greensboro Transit Agency (GTA) will be completely free with their “Move to the Polls” initiative.
  • Likewise, the GTA’s customer service area will be offering printed registration forms that riders can complete on site or take for later completion.

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With an unparalleled election well underway, the ability to listen to your residents’ concerns and address them as best as possible is essential, as seen in the examples above. See how Zencity can help you manage any election in your city or county.